A beginner's guide to gardening tools

It's difficult enough finding time to maintain your garden, but having the right tools goes a long way to achieving great results. Here, our gardening experts share the gardening toolkit essentials you'll need to make your garden flourish.

A woman, let's call her Jane, is standing below a tree, neck strained to face the mess of branches above. With pole-pruner in hand, she raises the extension tool through the canopy and anchors the secateurs on a branch.

Pulling the tool's string, the blades carve the wood like a knife through a baguette, sending the offcut tumbling to earth. Jane repeats the process on a bunch of limbs destined for compost. Standing back to admire her work, she spies one more branch that, if removed, will even the canopy perfectly.

The pole ascends and lands one final time but as Jane pulls the string, the blades don't budge. She yanks it again and, suddenly, the secateurs snap and hurtle south hitting Jane on the head and knocking her out cold.

This is a true story as told by award-winning garden designer Ian Barker about a friend of his - whose real name isn't Jane. And the point of the story is there was a better tool for the job. A decent motorised pruner, for example.

It's important to invest in reliable, job appropriate garden tools.

It's important to invest in reliable, job appropriate garden tools. Photo: Gabriele Charotte

"Unless you know what the right tool is," Barker says, "don't do the job."

Rookie blunders aside, homeowners can rest easy knowing their gardens will flourish under their amateur, time-poor hands if they heed expert advice and invest in reliable, job-appropriate garden tools. Hello weekends!

Barker's must-have tools include, "a really good pair of secateurs" for pruning shrubs, a rake, a hand-cultivator (a claw that loosens the earth), a quality hedge trimmer for neat hedges and a "really good" mower.

"I don't actually like gardening," Barker confesses. "I love designing gardens and I love building them, but I don't like maintaining them."

His efficient weekend repertoire, therefore, involves tending to the perimeter of his garden first, pruning plants and cultivating the ground. Cuttings are thrown on the lawn in the middle. "You don't have to be too thorough picking up the rubbish from the grass, because then you finish with the mower," he says. Job done.

A decent shovel is a must-have.

A decent shovel is a must-have. Photo: Supplied

Barker advises against investing in low-grade equipment.

"Power tool-wise, buy a quality mower," he says. "Don't buy a cheap mower. If you get the mower out and you can't start it, you just get fed up and you usually stop and go do something else. Same goes for a really good hedge trimmer. The better the hedge trimmer, the sharper [the blades] and you get nice clean cuts, and it's fast."

Jim's mowing gardening contractor and Honda ambassador, George Labbad, says he uses Honda equipment because, "they start first time, every time. It's as simple as that."

The result of any gardener's efforts is always indicated by the quality of machinery used.

"From a home gardener's perspective, with Honda, you take your equipment out and you're into it straight away," Labbad says. "The other beauty of using Honda is it's all four-stroke. You're not having to remember the right mix of fuel. You just fill a tin with unleaded fuel and you're ready to go."

A quality mower is essential for quick and easy backyard maintenance.

A quality mower is essential for quick and easy backyard maintenance. Photo: Honda MPE

Labbad's list of gardening tool essentials includes a first-rate brush cutter, hedgecutter, blower and big plastic hands for picking up green waste.

The Honda VersaTool is also a mainstay in Labbad's kit. Attachments such as the blower and hedgecutter work from the one power-head, making storage and cartage easy. The extension pole eradicates the perilous ladder, saving time and putting welfare first. High branches can be trimmed with the power of a four-stroke engine, neatly, quickly and safely.

Peter Shaw of Ocean Road Landscaping says there are two types of gardening: the repetitive jobs that don't need planning, like mowing and edging, and the creative jobs, like heavy pruning and planting.

"Get the repetitive stuff done first," he says, "then the fun can begin doing more creative things." A decent stainless steel shovel and wire metal rake is in Peter's must-have toolkit.

Barker adds beginner gardeners should take on the "little stuff" until they're more experienced.

"As soon as you think it's starting to get a bit beyond you, it is," he says. "Get someone else in. There's the right tool for every job and unless you know what the right tool is, don't do it."

Labbad adds: "I truly believe if you invest in good equipment, you're not continually having to re-buy, you're not continually having to repair it and, if it's quality, you'll use it more and get enjoyment out of using it as opposed to it being a chore."

This story A beginner's guide to gardening tools first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.